Center for Strategic Decision Research


Security Issues in Russia

Dr. Grigory Yavlinsky
Head of the Yabloko Fraction, Russian State Duma


I will start by talking about the security-related changes that have occurred in Russia in recent years. After the 2002 Russia-NATO summit in Rome, a real and serious step forward took place, resulting in new levels of cooperation. Since the summit, at which Russia became a part of the NATO 20, meetings and discussions between Russia and NATO have been held not only at the top level, where they are important but can continue for some time with little follow-through, but also at lower levels, where they are more regular and provide a greater and more real feeling of partnership. 

Theater Missile-Defense System

Prior to the Russia-NATO summit, in January 1998, I had the privilege of speaking to then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about a theater missile-defense system that could be created by Russia and NATO in Europe. During that period, the ABM Treaty was being discussed in a very tough way and such a system seemed like a fairy tale then. But later, in 1998, I had a long talk with Boris Yeltsin and he started the process. Then, in 2001, President Putin presented this initiative to George Robertson, and not so long ago I received the very pleasant news that all NATO countries have agreed not just to talks but to the actual financing of this project.  

For me, this agreement is one of the most important things that has happened in the security sphere because it is helping Russia in a very practical way. As part of the Russian military-industrial complex, Russian engineers, scientists, and military officers are now working every day to create security systems, and they are using Russian technology and Russian abilities and working on Russian territory. Although I believe that the work is moving too slowly, I am happy that it is moving because it is something very real.  

Russia-NATO and Russia-Europe Cooperation

There are some areas in which the Russia-NATO or Russia-Europe cooperation has not been enough. This cooperation is absolutely needed; yet it is still not in a working stage. For example, human rights in the Caucasus and especially in Chechnya are under great pressure. The bloody conflict there has major potential for growth and also for active terrorism. It is therefore Russia's responsibility as well as the responsibility of all those who care about global security to cooperate daily on these problems and to determine what to do about them. The strategic declaration that was signed between President Putin and President Bush in 2002 provides many opportunities to cooperate on these issues in practical ways.

Visa Issues

Another sensitive issue for Russia concerns its visa isolation in Europe. I realize that 80% of this problem is on the Russian side. We need to improve a lot of things, including security structures and structures in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But it is very important that within two or three years the Russian people be welcome to visit Europe without a visa. Otherwise real cooperation will be very difficult. 


On the wider and more general issue of global security, I would like to bring up a more fundamental topic, i.e., the challenges to what I would call the philosophy of international politics. After the Second World War, liberal democracy became the dominating political concept-left liberal and right liberal, but liberal democracy as the basis of internal and international politics. There is no doubt that the spread and development of liberal democracy helped bring about the end of the Cold War. The creation of a market economy throughout the world is also a consequence of this dominant liberal-democracy concept. 

Today, however, we can see a different direction in international politics. Instead of championing values such as human rights, we are seeing much too often the so-called real-politik approach, which is based on bargaining and dealing and looks more like business than international politics. Its presence reminds me of the famous Dr. Faust's dilemma. More and more, partners are simply fulfilling obligations and contracts, and new politicians and young politicians have no idea of the valuable concepts that won the Cold War. It was not so much the weapons, or even the economy, that did it. It was the way of living and of making decisions that led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall. 

Many people who are now in politics, even in the top positions, are making decisions in a very pragmatic way. In fact, some of their decisions look more like managerial decisions. To me this is a serious challenge to global security. For those of us who follow world politics carefully, we see brilliant protocol but no substance and no consequences. That means we are wasting time and are not creating a 21sts century that can effectively meet the challenges of global security.


Everything I have just discussed is definitely related to Russia. Russia is a major part of the world, and it has the longest border and some of the most unstable and unpredictable places in the world. From our point of view, the most important global security issue is our future, and that of China. I would prefer that our territory did not encompass these problems, but I cannot change reality.

Therefore I want to stress that the key issue for partnering with Russia—and also with China—is to develop democracy, an open society, human rights, and a market economy there. I believe this very strongly. Our long-time oligarchic system cannot be the basis for a stable partnership. The only real way to bring about partnership and cooperation is to support and protect stable liberal and democratic institutions in the country. Ignoring or neglecting internal developments in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Byelorussia, and Russia will make it impossible to meet the new challenges of global security.

That is the main message I want to deliver. Countries that have a democratic facade and semi-criminal oligarchic economic systems are not contributors and cannot be relied on. Developing a democratic system is in our vital interest, and we are not doing so to curry favor.

During the Second World War, countries with different systems were able to work as allies to fight the Nazis and fascism. This is no longer possible, because the threats are now different. At the time of the war, it was like a fight with a bear. You needed big weapons and aircraft carriers to fight the big enemy animal. Now, the situation is completely different. The fight is with a poisonous mosquito; aircraft carriers are certainly needed, but they are not the solution. The solution is to eradicate the swamp in which the mosquitoes live.

Not long ago I had a discussion with a very important politician from the West, and I told him about this analogy. He said to me, we are going to attack the mosquitoes’ nests. And I responded, mosquitoes have no nests. They live in a swamp, and you have to eradicate the swamp. And to do that you need to have international cooperation—intelligence, military, everything. Russia is prepared to be part of that cooperative effort, but first we must overcome the difficulties of our internal development.




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